Walter Cronkite didn't lose Vietnam war
Peter Jay is a master at delivering a sneak punch against someone in the midst of a column that, to the casual reader, seems to be a balanced appraisal. This generally happens when he is writing about someone who is a known liberal or suspected of liberalism (e.g., James Reston, Paul Tsongas).
In his Dec. 12 column ("He was our uncle"), Mr. Jay says some laudatory and even affectionate things about Walter Cronkite, but then drops the bomb. He charges that Mr. Cronkite, with one comment, single-handedly lost the Vietnam war. I guess that gets Jane Fonda off the hook.
Because of that comment, according to Mr. Jay, Lyndon Johnson decided to resign, the rest of the press came out against the war and the North Vietnamese, who were almost ready to give up, decided to keep fighting after all.
There are many problems with this argument, but the most important one is the idea that we lost this crazy war because we lost our will to continue. Actually, it was lost because it did not make sense to continue. It was lost before it started.
Many thousands of our best young people were being slaughtered, thousands more became drug-addicted, an entire generation was alienated, and for what? So that we could kill, in the cause of "anti-communism," hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese peasants who didn't have a clue as to the difference between capitalism and communism, and didn't much care.
So that we could drive a million people, supposedly our allies, from their homes, defoliate their food supply, and bomb their cousins in the north to smithereens. All in the name of an unsupported theory about "dominoes."
It is ironic that many of the same people who were most fervently convinced that we were morally justified in dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki because it might have saved a million American lives are the same armchair generals who now say we should have kept sending American men to Vietnam to be butchered in those jungles.
This was a war of attrition; whoever sacrifices the most lives is the "winner," whatever that means. Does Mr. Jay really think the United States could have won such a race to the death?
Help for homeless, hungry benefits all
Those who contribute liberally to hospitals and the medical institutions are to be applauded for their generosity.
However, if they donate 10 percent of that amount to establish a foundation for eliminating hunger and homelessness in Maryland, we may go a long way in preventing diseases.
Helping the women, the children and the starving is a requirement to perpetuate a civilized society.
Bail L. Rao
Many theories, no solutions
In his Dec. 13 Perspective article, "The Lebanon terror connection," Steve Yetiv seems to have an abundance of theories, but nothing to help solve the problem.
Mr. Yetiv wants the U.S. to "look hard" at Lebanon, a country trying to shake the effects of a long war. The Lebanese, who never called themselves the "Swiss of the Middle East," are not allowed to determine their own destiny.
The U.S., and the rest of the world, must do more than take a hard look at Lebanon by taking a harder look at the situation in the Middle East as a whole. That region's problems stem from lack of democracy and justice, which are main ingredients for eliminating terrorism.
Lebanon, until recently the only democratic country in the Middle East, is currently occupied by foreign armies. Southern Lebanon, occupied by Israel, continues to bleed. The rest of Lebanon -- and the Lebanese government -- are at the mercy of their Syrian "guests."
When Israel, Syria and Iran have a problem to work out, they do so on Lebanese soil, using the same impoverished people who suffer from their conflict. These impoverished people are Mr. Yetiv's "terrorists." These "terrorists" are funded, supported and given reason to act by countries other than Lebanon. The Lebanese people are, by far, the biggest victims of the "terror connection" and its many dynamics.
The disintegrating peace process, which will make the situation worse, is where the U.S. andthe rest of the world should be taking the hardest look.
Public schools cannot succeed
I thoroughly enjoyed the Dec. 15 Perspective article, "Cash alone won't save schools," by Donald F. Norris.
He rightly points to the socio-economic context of the school as one of the primary corollaries of success. He argues persuasively for decentralization of poverty, housing, jobs and transportation programs to change that context.
Sounds good. But I'm left to wonder why city parochial schools which (according to the Abell Foundation, "Democratic Lessons from Baltimore's Catholic Schools") are doing such an excellent job with students from the same types of homes as those in public schools, and at substantially lower cost (not even counting the cost of special education students in the public schools). Could it be that our whole public education enterprise is founded on the flawed premise that you can educate one part of a child without dealing with the most essential part: his or her need for a philosophical context in which to learn?
Or is it perhaps simply a matter of having an administration and faculty that can present a united front on important life-questions because they share a common philosophy and values, as opposed to the personnel "diversity" mandated for public schools by the state Department of Education?
Can there be a clue in the fact that formal schooling in America was historically a function of religious institutions and that the first public schools (as well as nearly all the Ivy League universities) were conceived and founded by Protestant clergy?
Or is the answer simply, as the Abell Foundation report put it, "Perhaps what works about Catholic schools is something public schools cannot emulate, a religious focus which provides a sense of purpose. This sense of purpose engenders . . . a strong emphasis on teaching the important civic and moral values which public school students ought to be taught but are not."
John D. Schiavone
Jay's grammar worth reading
Of all the columnists often appearing on the Opinion Commentary page, I always read Peter Jay. He is one of my favorites, in both content and style. However, so far as I am concerned, he outdid himself in his Dec. 5 column ("Semicolons are cool; use one now and then").
Both the subject, some aspects of the English language, and the sane, down-to-earth comments of Mr. Jay are particularly good.
For example: "E. B. White says in 'The Elements of Style' that some infinitives seem to improve on being split, just as a stick of round stovewood does. 'I cannot bring myself to really like the fellow.' The sentence is relaxed, the meaning clear, the violation is harmless and scarcely perceptible. Put the other way, the sentence becomes stiff, needlessly formal. A matter of ear."
Thanks, Mr. Jay. I enjoyed this one especially, and find I like re-reading it now and then. I, too, love the American language. Always have, I think.
Pub Date: 12/22/96